Jason has owned some pretty unique, (some may say questionable) cars in his lifetime. But now is looking for a solid commuter car that has comfort and power, of course, it still has to have some character. What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
Recently graduated physician. I am looking to finally replace my beater that I have been driving (I am a fan of the $500 car). Although I don’t really have a problem with it, parts are super hard to find and it has over 150,000 miles. I want something that is not common but reasonably affordable — under $30k but would prefer under $20k.
Currently, I own a Suzuki Aerio hatchback, a Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 and a Suzuki VStrom 1000. In the past I have owned a PT Cruiser GT (judge me, but with the stage 1 Mopar tune and the 5 speed, it could blast high 5s/low 6s to 60 consistently which in 2003 was pretty good), a Passat wagon and while in living in Europe a BMW M3 sedan (e46) and — a manual Alfa 156 wagon with the 2.4 5 cylinder diesel (black over red leather).
I drive a ton and need something quiet, comfortable and with a decent amount of space — I am close to 6'3. Roads around here are awful, so nothing with a harsh suspension. Heated seats are a must since it’s cold frequently and ventilated seats would be nice. I am extraordinarily anti-SUV and honestly would rather walk than drive one.
I would love a manual, but I also understand that will be a tall order.
Budget: Up to $30,000, but the cheaper the better
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: North East Ohio
Wants: Comfort, speed, reliability, and somewhat unique
Doesn’t want: Something too small or too boring
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Rally All The Things, Sorta
Jason, as a physician that needs to brave the elements to get to work, you need something that is capable and quick in adverse conditions. A Subaru WRX would be perfect but it’s a bit small and not all that comfortable for a long commute.
The next best thing would be a Subaru Legacy GT. It comes with the same 250 hp boxer-four paired with a six-speed manual from it’s less mature brother but in a more sensible package. The great thing about the LGT is it’s a bit of a sleeper, most people just see some random sedan, but that hood scoop means business. Sadly, Subaru stopped caring about making Legacies that were both turbocharged and manual, so this car is the last of its breed.
You will have to spread the net wide to find the right specimen but here is one well under your price range, but it does have some miles on it.
Expert 2: Jason Torchinsky - Everyone Shut Up And Let Me Handle This
Now, I’m not saying that I know something about people named Jason with a thing for weird cars, but I know something about people named Jason with a thing for weird cars. And, based on your impressively specific criteria there, I’m happy to say I think there’s a perfect weird yet usable car that will meet all your needs: the Volvo 262C Bertone.
You know about this thing, right? The Volvo 262C Bertone exists because Henry Ford II once visited a Volvo factory back in the 1970s, and brought with him some Lincoln Continental Mark IV coupés to drive around in.
The Swedes saw those amazing American luxo-land-yachts and thought, shit, we gotta make us some of those motherfjorders. They got the Italian coachbuilder Bertone to help them realize their low-roof, vinyl-topped dream, and the 262C was born.
The 262C is basically a bulletproof Volvo 200 series coupé with the same V6 as in a DeLorean, a chopped top, and packed full of all the luxury crap Volvo could make.
It’s got plenty of room for your long, long legs, rides comfortably, is quiet, and, being from Sweden, handles cold like a champ.
I found two options for you: this first one is pretty much exactly what you want. It’s a 1978 262C with a manual transmission (four speed plus an electric overdrive), and I saw on the picture of the dash a switch for heated seats. Somehow, this beauty is only $3500!
I’m also including a link to this $17,500 car, which I think is less desirable for you because it’s an automatic and I’m not sure if it has heated seats, but it does have this astounding gold-and-black paint scheme:
I feel like it would be amoral not to at least make you aware of this option. These Volvos have everything you want, and boat and/or buttloads of character besides.
We’re done here, right?
Expert 3: Patrick George - Nothing But Respect For My President
Congrats on becoming a doctor, Jason. Doctors are pillars of any community. Respected. Trusted. Important. And though you have made both good and insane choices in the past, it is critical now that you carry yourself with an air of prestige and authority.
Your budget’s $30,000? I’m about to save you a shit-ton of money by telling you to buy this JDM 1991 Nissan President. The President was a long-running line of full-size luxury limousines in Japan, and now, through the miracle of America’s byzantine import laws, they can be owned here. For cheap!
For sale at our friends at Japanese Classics, $7,995 will get you four doors, leather seats, imposing looks, a TV in the back, heated and massaging seats, a beautiful hood ornament, and perhaps best of all, a robust 4.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine.
Also, it’s pretty much the same thing as the original Infiniti Q45—except bigger and better and more opulent—so parts will be much easier to source than, say, an Autozam AZ-1.
I think you deserve to commute in the utmost comfort and refinement, and for a hair under eight grand, you can’t do better than this.
Expert 4: Stef Schrader - Dead And Dying Brand Enthusiast
One of the biggest weirdos I know—in size, strangeness and tendency to road-race classic Dodge Darts—drives a Pontiac G8. It’s a big comfortable American car with lots of room and a pleasant sounding V8. Clearly, it is exactly what you need.
While it is technically from a dead brand like your Suzuki, this car was the Pontiac version of the Chevrolet SS, so parts shouldn’t be too hard to find. The SS was only recently retired, and it’s a big American V8, so it should (in theory) outlive the apocalypse.
Because America hates fun, not very many of either this car or the Chevrolet version sold, so your weirdo status will remain intact. The manual Chevrolet SS still commands a premium, but just in your price range is the manual GXP trim of the Pontiac G8.
Here’s a pretty red 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP in Florida on Autotrader for $27,500. It may take some looking around to find one closer to you, but it would be worth it to sink into those big comfy heated seats and occasionally lay down a fat pair of elevenses.